Some time ago, Emily Rookwood wrote Why So Many CEOs Are Taking Up Cycling (2014. Spear´s Magazine). The article talked about the important shift in the people who are cycling. Today, in an amateur race you can find entrepreneurs, CFOs, CEOs, MDs, etc. Even Damian Lewis was driving a Passoni bike in Billionaire, a clear example of what is a social symbol in our societies.
Cycling is the new golf, sport that enhances business communication and networking, and executives are driving expensive bikes and clothes, status symbols that replace traditional ones. Even luxury watchmakers are seing how their customers are wearing Garmin or Suunto watches.
On Fashion Retail Safari I commented about Sports and Fashion from a sociological approach, giving a historical overview on sports practice evolution in our society and how brands have adapted to it. In relation to social symbolism, Pierre Bourdieu (French sociologist) wrote the following comment:
“Class habitus defines the meaning conferred on sporting activity, the profits expected from it… In short, to the ‘intrinsic’ profits (real or imaginary, it makes little difference) which are expected from sport for the body itself, one must add the social profits, those accruing from any distinctive practice, which are very unequally perceived and appreciated by the different classes for whom they are, of course, very unequally accessible” (How can one be a sports fan, Bourdieu, 1978).
Bourdieu couldn´t analyze in 1978 how globalization would change sports heritage and the evolution of the influence of multinational companies. Despite that, sport still expresses a socioeconomic status. The proportion of obese individuals in industrialized nations now correlates inversely with median household income (Bentley, R.A., Ormerod, P. & Ruck, D.J. Recent origin and evolution of obesity-income correlation across the United States. Palgrave Commun. 2018) and fashion is there to help individuals to express their identity and lifestyle.
Cycling is a popular, accessible sport and over the last decade many niche players have changed the way cyclist are wearing in relation to its design but also in regards their willingness-to-pay. Many niche brands are positioned in the higher segment of the fashion pyramid, selling exclusive, fashionable garments and not only for road but urban cycling. Like in other categories or fashion brands, the more “fashionability” and “sell-fulfillment” or social inclusion the customer is looking at, the more elitist are brands or sub-brands.
Bikes are the new toilet paper
In 2020, the world was impacted by a new threat, the first global one after WWII: Covid-19. During the lockdown, Spain banned outdoor exercice (the only country in Europe). When lockdown ended, cycling booming emerged, but not only in Spain but in many countries in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.
“We’re the new toilet paper and everyone wants a piece,” Grant Kaplan, manager of Giant Sydney, a bike store in Sydney’s CBD, tells Guardian Australia.
Fitness junkies locked out of gyms, commuters fearful of public transit, and families going stir crazy inside their homes during the coronavirus pandemic have created a boom in bicycle sales unseen in decades… Bicycle sales over the past two months saw their biggest spike in the U.S. since the oil crisis of the 1970s, said Jay Townley, who analyzes cycling industry trends at Human Powered Solutions… In the U.S., places like Walmart and Target have been cleaned out of bicycles (2020. Marketwatch).
COVID-19 causes ‘bike explosion’ as Germans long for a ride tells Deutsche Welle (DW)
Coronavirus: ‘Your new bike won’t be in stock until 2021’ – the cycle search frenzy (June 2020. BBC News)
Bicycle Sales Surge With Americans Eager to Get Moving Again. Bike shops report growth of 30% to 300%. Even unpopular colors like orange and turquoise get sold. (May 2020. Bloomberg)
During Coronavirus period, sales are booming at every customer segment but depending on the business model, brands are even putting discounts on hold during the sales period that is starting. Sportswear fashion pyramid responds to the same criteria of luxury fashion. There are many positioning levers starting from functional attributes (e.g. elasticity, breathability) to intangible or aspirational ones (elegance, status).
Café du Cycliste
Pas Normal Studios – Stories
Casual and sportswear categories and brands are seeing sales rise due to Covid-19, while gyms and offices remain closed or people are scared to step in. Are we living the Apocalypse of suit and tie? Gym-goers are discovering outdoor exercice and are investing in new materials or updating their closet. Maybe it´s not just a consequence of Corona, but a trend that has been accelerating in line to sustainability or the experience economy, but also health-consciousness.